LaPORTE — The city of LaPorte is using a $220,000 state grant to enhance the economic activity generated by regional volleyball tournaments it hosts.
The grant, from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, will fund just a portion of an expected $830,000 of work planned at the new Dunes Event Center and its immediate surroundings at New Porte Landing. When all of the dust settles, there will be more parking along with sidewalks and trails leading in all directions from the center.
Bert Cook, executive director of the LaPorte Economic Alliance Partnership, said the additional on-site parking at Dunes Event Center will help during its major tournaments.
During its inaugural full winter schedule of tournaments, the facility at the southeast corner of New Porte Landing has drawn teams from across the Region, similar to when it was 10 miles to the east at Rolling Prairie. There isn’t enough designated parking, though, to accommodate many of the passenger vehicles and team buses, which are then forced to park on Hoelocker Drive, an industrial road beside Clear Lake that the city abandoned as part of redevelopment of the whole area.
Cook said the rest of the state grant will go toward building connections at Dunes Event Center to the sidewalks and trails already at New Porte Landing, and to the planned sidewalk and trail extensions to downtown and Clear Lake.
He said the idea is to give pedestrians the same ability to easily migrate from Dunes Event Center to businesses downtown and to the enhanced recreational opportunities on the drawing board for Clear Lake.
"The goal is making sure everything connects when it’s all completed," Cook said.
Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Buffalo Wild Wings have experienced a noticeable increase in business during tournaments, Cook said. There’s pavement for tournament-goers walking to and from those commercial establishments.
City Planner Beth Shrader said a $580,000 grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte will pay for the connectivity work along Clear Lake.
Foundation dollars will also go toward construction of an overlook and trail head at Clear Lake and other waterfront improvements, she said.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the work should allow the city to reap full benefits from the thousands of visitors going to Dunes Event Center annually.
He said local hotels also have enjoyed an increase in room bookings from the early tournaments.
"We’re pretty excited about the results," Arnett said.
New Porte Landing is where Allis Chalmers made tractor equipment for more than half of a century before closing in the 1980s. The site has been viewed since then as having great potential for adding life to the downtown area. Much of what’s been gradually happening there is aimed directly at that vision.
Shrader said the work at Dunes Event Center will begin in the spring, while the Clear Lake improvements are to start in late summer or early fall.